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Show HN: 6 months ago I quit my job to pursue indie dev. Here is our first game (playadrift.com)
858 points by seanalltogether on March 6, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 329 comments

Welcome to the App Store! I'm very impressed with what you guys have done in 6 months; it took me much longer to ship my first app.

Here's a little bit of feedback:

+ The graphics are super polished. Great work!

+ The touch interaction could use some work. Sometimes, I drag and I feel it colors squares that I don't want to color. Or it colors squares that I've successfully colored already, and it's not clear how I can backtrack. Take a look at path drawing games like Scramble with Friends to see how they handle backtracking.

+ I understand that advertisements are ugly and you want to keep your game very slick and polished, but... you are leaving a lot of money on the table. I would make your app a Universal Binary (add iPad support) and then throw an iAds/AdMob banner ad at the bottom of the screen. Then, make it very clear that if the user buys an IAP, that you'll remove ads forever. You can keep your iPhone version ad-free.

+ Why isn't your app just called "Adrift"? Was it taken already? "Adrift by Tack" looks a little clumsy, or err... tacky.

+ From appstorerankings.net, it looks like your keywords are "3d cube connect center adrift by tack". Center comes from Game Center, and Adrift by Tack comes from your title. So it looks like you don't use many keywords. As a new app on the store, I'd add more keywords like: puzzle, flow, board, etc. And try to find more unique ones where you might rank highly.

+ Good luck working the press! You've already done a great job with HN. :-)

Email me at {my_user_name}@gmail if you want to chat.

Additionally: Since you already have a web-playable version of the game, you should have a feature where a user can share a puzzle with a friend.

Once they complete a challenging puzzle, say something like "Congrats. You demolished that puzzle! Want to share this with a friend?" Then when they hit the FB/TW share icon, you can share the same exact puzzle (http://playadrift.com/?puzzle=3653) as a link. This will improve your virality.

Also, what toolkit did you use to write the iOS game? cocos2d? Or is there some magical toolkit that allows you to render out an HTML version of your app too???!!

Thanks for all the feedback, it's all really good advice, We've gone back and forth on the ad thing and we're still not sold on whether to integrate them or not. The game was written in cocos2d, and I wrote the initial prototype in html5, so thats whats being used on the website. Also yeah "Adrift" was taken as an app store entry, so we had to figure out something else for the title, I agree its a bit clunky.

Yeah, I didn't include ads for my first year either. Now, my model going forward will always be: Free + iAds/AdMob + IAP to get more content and remove the ads.

There are people who can never pay you (kids whose parents have disabled IAP). There are people who would have been happy to pay you after 20 levels, but got distracted by a new SuperCell game and never came back to your game. You want to monetize every user, even if it's for 1 cent. Or if you don't monetize them, you want them to tell their friends about your app, to improve your app virality.

I understand if you don't want to bombard your users with IAP and ads, but monetization is truly important. It allows your company to survive. Without it, you might have to go get a job someday, and this will prevent us all from enjoying your awesome games.

Also, it's not clear that there are more level packs if you swipe horizontally. Maybe if you add the three little dots (page indicators) at the bottom? Or maybe arrows that you can tap to change the page? I know this all looks ugly, but sometimes you have to be explicit. There are lots of users who need a bit of guidance to navigate your app.

Also, it's not clear that there are more level packs if you swipe horizontally. Maybe if you add the three little dots (page indicators) at the bottom? Or maybe arrows that you can tap to change the page? I know this all looks ugly, but sometimes you have to be explicit. There are lots of users who need a bit of guidance to navigate your app.

I had a hard time figuring this out too.

I sympathise with you 100% from first hand experience as an iOS dev[1] on the ad front. As designers we want our products to be beautiful and "pure", and for every single user to love the experience of using our app. You have to remember though that at the end of the day you want your company to do well and provide some sort of return on your investment.

Having said that let me give you some numbers which you can correlate to your download figures to come up with an estimate of how much ad revenue you are leaving on the table. Today you can expect your ad revenue to be about 3-10 USD per 1k bootups. Maybe more if you do some ad mediation between networks to increase fill rates[2] but this is a realistic estimate. This is from personal experience using Chartboost and revmob. To achieve a steady 1k daily bootups, you will need about 150 downloads/day. This is a steady state equilibrium I've found true for my apps, it takes into account new user acquisition rate and churn rate (which is surprisingly high, from my stats only about 80% of users will even open you app, and of those 80% only 30% will open it on the next day, after 30 days you can expect about 5% of users to still be using your app).

There's a lot to be said about App Store monetization but take these numbers into account when considering whether to ad ads to your app. Btw all of the above is for full screen interstitial ads shown once on app launch. And honestly most users are ok with tactful ads that don't interfere with the user experience (predictable and consistent positioning out of the way of gameplay--e.g. at app launch or between levels/after you "die"), I can tell you I've never had a bad review because of ads.

I just wanted to give you some advice re. ads as it's something I emotionally struggled with at the beginning, and I'd hate to see a talented team like yours not get the results you deserve, esp. by leaving money on the table.

Cute game btw!

[1] www.goonbee.com [2] www.github.com/lmirosevic/GBAds

I wanted to share this with you guys because it's taken around 3 years of reading HN to really convince myself to quit my job and build my a business with my friends

You should charge for it.

He/she probably can't. The concept is not new. Here's a flash version of the same game. it is a few years old.

[1]: http://www.addictinggames.com/puzzle-games/3dlogic2.jsp

Who says you need completely novel gameplay mechanics to charge money for an app? Surely more polish, hand-built levels and an app are sufficient. Whether OP would make more on ads or IAP remains to be seen, though. An IAP to get more levels would be a good way to hook users.

The overwhelming majority of app users would not pay a cent for any app, much less a game.

Free sells.

People charge for Chess apps. :)

Angry Birds wasn't a new concept either.

I was looking for this, I knew I had played it before.

This one has much better controls on the web app, as well.

exch, you point to the mother of all "we stole your game play and made a new game" sites. :)

I saw someone charging for a game based on the exact same principle last week. No reason not to.

I agree. Free demo on website + charge for app = profit... probably.

Does the website demo work on an iPhone (I don't have one to test)?

This only works if their site gets views and the free demo gets plays. In my experience, apps in the App Store are primarily found through the App Store, meaning potential users won't hit the site first to try the demo.

The standard solution is to give away a bunch of levels for free and charge for additional levels using IAPs.

I'm guessing that demo is getting a lot of plays right now and they should capitalize on the hype that's being built.

Relying on the App Store is a good strategy for development firms that cannot build their own hype. So far, I'm guessing these guys are doing an okay job.

But I have zero data on any of this, hopefully they do and are acting appropriately.

We felt that out of the gate making it free to download was our best chance for success, but who know, if we start getting into A/B testing in the future, we may find that keeping the game free in the browser and charging for app store installs is the way to go.

By the way, the parent of this comment is getting a lot of up votes. Others seem to agree with me.

I don't play a lot of games, but this is really cute. It reminds me of Freefall by Denis Auroux (http://math.berkeley.edu/~auroux/software/freefall/index.htm...: a Java Applet (1996)).

This game is really fun. Congrats on that.

Yeah, I got to level 9 before I had to pull myself away. Good work.

You mean totally unwinnable I'm so mad right now I can't see straight level 9?

Then I beat it not 5 seconds later. facepalm


I agree! Congratulations!

Very nice! I beat the ten demo levels too quickly, and found myself wanting more. Two things:

* An iPad version is needed. The graphics seem to be high res enough to make an iPad version feasible, and if this is on the iPad I'd buy it for sure. I don't really like the idea of trying to trace out the paths on the tiny iPhone screen.

* Charge money for it. I'd definitely be willing to pay personally.

Congratulations! Looks even nicer than "3D Logic" by Alex Matveev [1] and has an advantage of being playable on mobile platforms.

[1]: http://www.kongregate.com/games/AlexMatveev/3d-logic

Congrats on doing that. Please keep us posted on the progress of the commercial part. Now that the game is out and since it's a good game, i'd be really curious to know how you plan to get people to buy it, and if it succeeded.

Is it intended that any solution will have all squares coloured? I like that property, and I think most of the online levels have it, but I solved level eight with some blanks.

If I had an iDevice I would pay for this. Good luck.

It's a fun game and has a great style. Great work!

I'm not sure how making a game for free is a business, but still, best of luck!

I love this game!! Once I got past the second level, I really got the hang of it and loved the mental challenge of solving levels.

One thought: I'd consider making the first few levels much easier. This article on Yoyodyne's trivia games is along those lines:

"As Yoyodyne got busier, we had less and less time to write each game's questions. Finally, one day, we launched a game that had very little effort put into the questions - a rush job, as I recall. The questions were factually correct, but there was no witty writing, no twist, and the questions were really easy to answer.

When the game ran, we were surprised to see that the response rate, instead of hovering around 30%, actually exceeded 60%. We had put less work into crafting the experience, and there were more players who wanted to participate. ... [u]sers wanted two things from their e-mail game experience:

1. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Users wanted to be told that they got the answer right, and that they were winning.

2. NO INVESTMENT: Users did not want to pay for that positive reinforcement in any way. They didn't want to think, work, get up from their chair, or otherwise make any effort to get the reward."


I realized this when I played the currently popular 4 pics 1 word game. I was expecting clever lateral thinking using homonyms. Instead I got 4 blue pictures and the word is blue. But it pops up a U DID IT screen and gives you fake money, with the option to purchase more fake money from the app developer.

People ultimately want just enough veneer on their games that they can pretend it isn't just a big you win button that showers them in confetti.

Great work. The fact you can play it straight away on the website is great, I'm not really a games player but I quickly got hooked.

Out of interest, do you make the levels by hand, or do you have a script to generate them? Would be interesting to know the rules for a valid level against an impossible level.

We made the levels by hand, writing a script to generate and validate levels is still an interesting math problem I would love to tackle if i had the time, its just very difficult from the limited attempt I made.

I really like your landing page. Do you know of any other game devs that have a playable demo on their landing page or did you come up with the idea yourself?

Honestly, it was just because I built the initial prototype in html5 and the level builder is also html based, since the effort to make a simple 10 level demo was so low we decided to throw it in.

Your game struck me as pretty similar to "Crazy Cube", a fairly popular flash puzzle game. I'm sure it's crossed your mind(s), but if you used an entire three-dimensional cube like that you could probably get even more permutations for levels. Just a thought :)

Edit: Ah, didn't realize you increased the density of squares on the cube as levels progressed. Very nice.

Looks great! Did not play much yet but I guess it needed a lot of trial/error and deep insights to designer some of the hard "levels".

The puzzle is identical to 3D Logic: http://www.kongregate.com/games/AlexMatveev/3d-logic-2-stron...

Are you sure this won't be a problem?



  Yeah, its a clone of an old shockwave game I played
  about 10 years ago and felt it would be perfect for
  touch interaction.
If you played it 10 years ago, it seems like a reasonable idea to clone it, but the fact that the old devs have been active may prove itself to be an issue.

The game I was referring to is hyperframe and has been available at least since 2002. http://www.shockwave.com/gamelanding/hyperframe.jsp, I don't know which one came first, but I can't imagine it will be a problem since we built our own unique levels.

That 3D Logic game worked how I expected this one too when I started.

>"it[']s a clone of an old shockwave game" //

Personally it doesn't look close enough to me to be a copyright infringement, game mechanics aren't copyrightable (but are patentable [depending on jurisdiction]). It wouldn't matter if the game had been released yesterday - in copyright terms - you can copy the concept of the game as long as you don't copy (or derive) your implementation.

IMO the 3D Logic version is vastly superior I'd just add a "hold button" to allow the cube to be held still whilst you draw.

Hey guys, thought I'd throw in my 2-cents as an Independent Games Festival judge, and as press.

First of all, your presentation is terrific. Great art and sound. Top notch, feels like it came from a very talented team. With this game on your resume, you've got a great future ahead of yourselves.

Now, the bad part: from a gameplay perspective, your game is not unique enough to win out on its own merits in any app store. If you have any money left, spend that cash on those awful, dark-alley fake review and promotion services. Take all of Ronyeh's advice, it's excellent, but you can't stop there. To succeed today in the app stores, you have to cheat, so go buy some reviews and downloads so you can raise your ranking in the store. It's a self-fulfilling cycle: higher rankings, more sales.

There is an awful lot to be said for this being a complete game with a pleasing experience, but there are already a dozen games with similar gameplay in the AppStore. though yours may be the most polished, sales of games in AppStores are less about quality and more about cheating to get more sales, or having a juggernaut that's already on top, like Angry Birds.

That being said, this is a perfect game to hang such cheating tactics around: it looks the part and sounds the part of a successful game, and it doesn't go the easy route of copying Angry Birds in every single interface window. Compare that to, say, Hill Climb Racing, a top ten app store game that looks awful and is infested with spyware.

But I think the best advice I can give you is to add some sort of meta-layer to your game. The fundamental gameplay is interesting and often challenging in the right ways, but there's no uniqueness factor. Perhaps adding some type of incremental reward for the puzzles. Completing a puzzle without reset gets you some form of currency, which can then be spent on customizing your hot air balloon, or on some form on in-game assistance. Think Dungeon Raid. Most mobile game companies just implement the puzzle and are done with it. The real stand out games take those simple puzzle interfaces and layer complex game elements triggered by successes and failures in the puzzle game.

Keep up the good work. You're obviously talented. You'll make money at this, but you can't rely solely on the press and the quality of your game. You have to game the app stores to succeed.

Oh, and when it comes to press, I really don't have any good advice. Try to find some small outlets to work with because the big guys will ignore you, and do so in a mean and churlish way. It's sad to say, but the gaming press these days are mostly retarded monkeys with no idea what it actually takes to make a game. Yer not going to get to the front page of IGN, so don't waste time trying. Find some small app store review sites no one has ever heard of and be nice to them. They'll give you a bigger bang for your buck.

I'm not sure cheating helps as much as it used to, and even so is a poor tactic and will possibly get you banned.

That said, Apple's App Store is an absurdly tough market in the U.S. When your game goes live, it needs to be at its best, and even large gaming companies have trouble getting games out there that do well, even with significant legitimate ad spend.

Here are some ideas, based loosely off of the experience I have had:

- Start contacting other indie-devs with relatively high dau numbers and arrange for X-promo via notifications and features.

- Stage your ad-spend when your metrics are known. Ie, if you beta test your app in some country like Brazil or New Zealand and improve your metrics so you have a known LTV, you can spend accordingly when you launch in a big market like Canada or US.

- Start with Android first because it is an easier ecosystem to iterate upon and attain an niche audience.

- There is a growing body of proof that burst spending on launch day is not the best strategy. There are games that launch early and are unknown but gradually improve their grossing metrics and buy audience in batches over time. I believe Rage of Bahamut was one such game [1]

[1]. http://www.appannie.com/app/ios/rage-of-bahamut/ranking/hist...

Far better advice than I gave, and far more timely. This fellow has more recent info than I, I'd bet.

hi physcab

Please see my thread http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5339639 i will appropriate your your input.

I have a similar problem i guess :) , although i am in the thouht that we did a very good game but the game is not climbing...maybe i am just asking too much :)

if you dont want to look at the thread i will just say that my game name is Atlantis Breaker HD, link: https://itunes.apple.com/app/atlantis-breaker-hd/id576385319...

What do you say?

about Android - aren't the costs of testing on multitude Android devices prohibitive for an indie dev? I think even Rovio had problems with that when they launched..

This is disturbingly cynical advice. If you stand by it, why not attach your real name to it? If not, why put it in public?

And by the way, you're recommending buying fake reviews. Here's a better tactic (and one that's guaranteed not to get you kicked out of the app store): get your launch announcement to the top slot on a popular discussion site, and get the real people there to leave real reviews instead. Which, if you're reading this and want to help these guys, is probably the best thing you can do.

Hey, look at the top ten apps on both app stores, then come back here and try not to be cynical about anyone's chanced of succeeding there. I've seen numbers on sales in the app stores. If yer not in the top 25, you might as well not even be in the app store, from a meaningful revenue perspective. There are very few exceptions, as far as I know. One possible one would be any app that's $20. Those probably make money, despite low sales numbers.

It's entirely possible to succeed using only honest, community focused methods. But yer competing with a huge pack of other guys who don't use those methods, and have a significant advantage because of it. This isn't hugs and puppies. This is business.

I have for years. Believe me, the idea that the app store is a positive feedback loop and you have to clear the inital hurdle to get anywhere is not news to me.

But the advice you're giving here is roughly equivalent to telling a young cyclist in their first pro race, "hey, listen buddy. If you want to succeed, you've got to dope. Everybody's doing it. There's no other way."

Fair enough.

And yet, if he wanted to ride in the Tour De France, I think we all know he'd lose unless he did a blood transfusion every single night....

Actually, wait. No I take that back, I do not agree. A starting cyclist will compete in local, small time races. There's only one App Store, and it's Pro's take all. These guys may be just beginning, but they're already swimming with sharks.

And if that's not enough mixed metaphors, I'll edit again!

Except, that analogy is true: purportedly, doping is really pervasive in pro-cycling and is basically necessitated to be anywhere near competitive. The same is true of the app store.

It's not optimal, but it's the status quo that tens of thousands of developers face: you can't win if you don't employ dubious means.

By the way, pro cycling had pretty much managed to kick its doping habit. You've seen all of the scandals over the past few years because they got more serious about cracking down on it, and once a few of the top pros were caught, they pointed the finger at the others. I think that most people believe that the last few Tours have been clean.

By the way, pro cycling had pretty much managed to kick its doping habit.

Okay, that made me laugh. Thanks for adding some humor into this otherwise rather downer discussion!

>> I think that most people believe that the last few Tours have been clean.

I used to race (although not on very high level), I know the environment and I would bet my balls that last few Tours have NOT been clean.

Hey I'm interested in this. How are they not clean now? Times are down by about 6% from Armstrong's heyday. I do want to understand your thinking as there may be something I' missing. I'm sure there are dopers, but AFAIK the leading teams are largely much much better now (look at Team SKY)

Where did you get that 6% and was that reliable source? And even if that number is somehow "correct" (each Tour is different and it is not possible to just numerically compare them) it does not mean the cycling is now clean, it does not even mean it's cleaner... there are too many factors that can influence this.

My opinion is this: cycling may be a bit cleaner in a sense that maybe doping is not as widespread as it used to be and maybe the effect of doping is more limited because they need to be more careful. But I don't believe cycling is clean now. There are new drugs that are undetectable and mentality has not changed. I believe this is more realistic: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/italian-judge-says-doping-is...

And about SKY team - I have no proof and it's nothing more than just my guess but I don't believe they are clean either. Remember last TdF? They totally ruled, they controlled the whole race. My cycling intuition tells me this is not natural. They certainly compete against some (I would say many) riders who are not clean (some of them even got caught, like Frank Schleck) and they were not even competing on the same level - they were superior. I don't believe it is possible without doping. The fact that they claim otherwise on every occasion means nothing to me - I have seen this too many times.

My guess - and I realize it's nothing more than guess - is that if in 2030 they use their new methods to test today's samples they will find out that there is some substance that is undetectable today.

I would love to be proven wrong on this - I love cycling.

I was wrong... it's 10% down according the source I was remembering: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18921784 and the 6 was from the power ratio of the top riders now down to around 6W/Kg.

Read more of the in-depth articles about Sky. Their training methods are hugely different, and came from the GB track cycling programme which has taken the world championships and Olympics by storm over the past decade. They're open about what it is, and unlike with others, it's only the performance which makes anyone wonder. Look at the figures, and remember, they're still 10% slower than Armstrong! What they are using is demonstrable physiological science and feedback: a manifestation of the benefits of the Quantified Self approach!

That article is interesting - it made me reconsider my opinion a bit. I certainly can be wrong about SKY team. I would have respect for them even if they were not clean because I have enough experience with cycling to be able to imagine how hard you have to work to get through any grand tour even if you are not clean. But if they are... good for them.

Regarding the top 25 meaningful revenue... this all depends on your team size, does it not? If you are solo or a team of 2-3, you need a lot less revenue than a big company.

We're almost done with our slot machine game for iOS (lame, I know), but we only have 2 people, and we definitely don't need to be in the top 25 to make some real money (that can fund new, "real game" projects).

Do some reading to figure out what kinds of returns you can expect. I've seen 1 and 2 person teams basically able to replicate a medium income job. That's great if you can make it sustainable, but I don't think anyone's getting rich outside of the glamorous world of a few big indie titles.



Or really, just use this link:


You can be far from top, and stil earn $100k/year...

Games are top-heavy, but there is an overlooked middle ground of devs who have a decent passive income...

I agree completely.

90% of the games that are currently on my iPhone were a) made by dev teams with 1-3 people, b) provide a unique and polished experience, and c) became known mainly based on community outreach. None of them are currently in the top rankings, but as far as I can tell they make enough money for the teams to get by. People keep talking about "hidden gems" on the App Store that failed to succeed despite having an excellent product, but so far, the only ones I've seen were either outright clones, failed to do any outreach at all, or had a poor business model. (Freemium with very little incentive to upgrade, for instance.)

Sure, if you're a hundred-person company, you might need to resort to shady means to be profitable. But I don't think that's at all necessary to make money on the App Store.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make up for the 400k indie games out there that are not making the top 100 and are competing between them to have a little piece of cake.

Asymmetry is a real problem in the App store.

There aren't 400k polished and unique indie games. There are 399.9k shit quality clones and a few gems. The question to ask is "if I make a quality game that is at least somewhat novel does it have a chance to do ok" where ok = enough to fund a 2-4 person team for their next project.

The answer is Yes, where "OK" is directly proportional to "uniqueness/novelty" factor. When judging, a novel gameplay idea will win me over before anything else. Good gameplay trumps all, but it's the toughest thing to get right, especially with the terribly limited interface you have on mobile devices.

This equation also works, sadly, when you replace "uniqueness/novelty factor" with "boobs." Look at the top apps and see that this is true.

Which ones, please, and how? I'd love some good recommendations, and to examine how those companies did it!

One very notable example is Sword & Sworcery EP. The guys behind the game did a talk at GDC '12 about making games for niche audiences instead of stooping to the lowest common denominator, but I can't seem to find it.

Simogo has made a couple of very unique and artful games, including last year's Mobile Game IGF winner Beat Sneak Bandit. It's notable that their games are premium priced ($3), but still have hundreds of reviews.

Mika Mobile is a husband & wife team with a number of fantastic brawlers under their belts, including Battleheart and Zombieville USA 2.

Tiger Style is (in their own words) a "distributed collective of independent game developers" that have most recently developed the award-winning exploration/space-gardening game Waking Mars.

Jeff Minter releases a new iOS game what seems like every other week. (Though he once characterized it as "run[ning] frantically on the iOS treadmill".)

Zach Gage has made a number of small, fairly popular games, including SpellTower and Bit Pilot. ("Net Gross for me is probably around ~110k for 3 years of work. but the profits would probably be quite a bit lower than that")


Notable recent failures include Punch Quest (F2P model didn't yield any income, so they switched to paid) and Gasketball (again, the F2P model they were using was too permissive).


So, not a perfect ecosystem, but not an abysmal wasteland either. Enough for the kooky hobbyists to get by as long as their products are top-notch and their business model makes sense. (At least that's how I see it.)

Big thanks! Wish there were a favourites list on here

Which games? Please be specific.

I replied to the poster above you with examples, in case you're interested.

>This is disturbingly cynical advice. If you stand by it, why not attach your real name to it? If not, why put it in public?

Could you explain this logic?

This is toxic advice and putting it out there makes the ecosystem worse. Giving it anonymously but backing it by appealing to your authority as an IGF judge, etc is bullshit.

(And that's true regardless of whether it's effective -- it clearly is, though I think mostly in the short term).

Edit: Since I'm being fairly negative here, I want to add that VonGuard's comments on gameplay and adding unique elements seem well-informed and well-intentioned.

OK, fair enough. I am not giving the cheating advice as an IGF judge. The advice for improving gameplay, and my compliments on the quality were as an IGF judge.

My comments on the app store are strictly from the cynical perspective of seeing what works. It has to be said. If you go in not knowing the table stakes, yer at a disadvantage. This is just like search engine optimization: fluid, ever changing, highly competitive, extremely scummy, but EVERYONE does it.

The alternative from the perspective of say, EA or a GluMobile, is to play completely by the rules, but produce 500 games per year. As a smalltime developer, cheating is immeasurably helpful when competing with the giants that can launch 2 new games every week.

I can't help but feel your desire for me not to talk about it this loud amounts to you plugging your ears and saying "LALALALALALA NOT LISTENING!" This stuff happens every day. Ignoring it means losing to it.

I can't help but disagree with your approach in principle. I acknowledge that your advice may be sound, and you may well have done the research necessary to arrive at your opinions - but the fact remains that you are giving people incredibly cynical advice without risking using your own credibility to back it up.

Your advice sounds cynical because it is. People don't want to cheat to win - and you're telling them that they have to. Well, who are you to say that? Why should people listen to you? You may be an IGF judge, but that doesn't mean you've ever sold a game (well scratch that, I actually don't know the qualifications required to become an IGF judge, but you catch my drift).

I say this not to be critical of you personally - but if you're saying 'you need to cheat', and then brandishing your status as a judge in a relevant body, then people are going to listen to you. If you're wrong, you've given people bad advice - and this means that you should lose credibility. If you're right, then you'll gain credibility. Simply 'opting out' of the credibility problem makes it very easy for supposedly credible people to give bad advice - which doesn't help anyone in the long run - and in fact can damage a lot of people's businesses and livelihoods.

>"People don't want to cheat to win - and you're telling them that they have to. Well, who are you to say that? Why should people listen to you?"

It's advice, you can take it or leave it.

You're more than welcome to be the guy/team who says, "we're going to do this the right way!". But so do a lot of other indie gaming teams, and they go under. I lived in the social gaming space for a while (Facebook). The biggest discouragement is that the quality of games made little difference to getting noticed and making money. I am no longer in the space.

You can do it the "honorable" way, and that's great, and may work. If you want to make a business of the business, you have to get your hands dirty. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

But this is the point - it's fine to say these things if you're not going to put your own credibility on the line and say 'this is me, these are my credentials, this is the reality'. I'm not denying that the game is skewed, that you can only compete if you cheat. All I'm saying is that if you're claiming some kind of expertise in this area, then you should attach your name to your words. Otherwise you're just a cynic and you're making the world a worse place by propagating the idea that you can only succeed if you cheat. It's not healthy, and it stops people even looking at ways of making it easier for the little guy to compete.

> If you stand by it, why not attach your real name to it?

Seriously? You don't understand why not?

Since it is obvious he does not – and you give the impression of possessing some kind of explanation – why not directly explain your view of it to him instead of asking snarky questions that you already know the answer to? It is a much more meaningful way to advance the discussion.

If he gives his real name then he is basically publically admitting to astroturfing via fake reviews.

I'm assuming this is against the TOS of pretty much any app store and could get whatever apps he is associated with pulled.

>"why not directly explain your view"

It's very simple, which I suppose is way the parent asked the question: I don't want to attach my name to anything I do on the internet, really.

Excellent comment, a very meaningful way to advance the discussion. Please post more of the same, more often.

Also you may want to look up "rhetorical question" when you have a spare moment.

I fail to see how you not expecting your question to be answered makes it somehow more relevant. It is still simply belligerent criticism without any reasonable justification or explanation. If you were planning to follow up with something later on you could easily have cut out the middleman.

But you are right when you say that this discussion is way off topic, so I'll probably leave it at this. Nice seeing ya.

> If you have any money left, spend that cash on those awful, dark-alley fake review and promotion services. Take all of Ronyeh's advice, it's excellent, but you can't stop there. To succeed today in the app stores, you have to cheat, so go buy some reviews and downloads so you can raise your ranking in the store. It's a self-fulfilling cycle: higher rankings, more sales.

> You have to game the app stores to succeed.

What the hell?

Edit: As antoko points out, this doesn't really add anything to the discussion, which I was aware of. I just felt the need to express disgust at what I feel to be blatant and inexcusable dishonesty. Never mind the risk of getting caught or some other backlash, what if you value honesty and pride in your work as much as the money?

It is obvious you take exception to the GPs quotes but you've not done a very good job of explaining why.

Do you believe the quoted statements from the GP are false?

Or do you not care if they are true, and rather believe that that kind of advice is always wrong?

Hey, this is not my advice. This was given to me by someone who charts successes and sales in app stores. It sucks, it's ugly, but it's fucking true and it works.

Yeah, we got similar advice when I was working at a social gaming startup. Apparently, it's not unheard of among growing, venture-funded companies like ours. I assure you, however, that the vast majority of the indie games that make the headlines (Super Hexagon, Hundreds, Letterpress, etc.) don't use these techniques.

Definitely true. And frankly, I only found out about some of the games yer mentioning through the IGF. Festivals and such are a great way to get yer name and game out there, but those are kinda limited to quality, unique games.

And, as for Super Hexagon, I'll play anything Terry Cavanagh makes. He is a fucking god. 4-Letter-Word melted my brain.

if you game isn't good enough to be in the IGF then may be it isn't high quality enough to succeed with out cheating the app store. therefore indoor game devs should strive to make these unique games instead of piling same old clones into the app store and resort to cheating to get noticed

Hm, so why make a unique game after all? Just make a crap one and buy the reviews.

1. write crap game. 2. buy reviews. 3. profit.

Well, the way it works, you get an initial boom for your buck, and you get more eyes on your product during your launch week, which is your critical time to make an impression. If your game or app is shit and no one ever uses it again, that money spent on cheating is an immediate ROI, and drops off as soon as you stop promoting the app.

However, if your app is awesome, that initial burst of cheating allowed your game to push through the crowds of 50,000 other apps to get the eyeballs it needs. If it's a great app, those initial users who were suckered in by cheating the system, are now happy, satisfied customers telling their friends about your app. You don't need to game the system anymore: you've broken through the brick wall that is the first 10,000 or so sales. After that, you can rely on the quality of your game to win people over, but when you're naked, alone and review-less, the app store can be a terrifying and unfriendly place.

Interesting, how much does a successful app usually have to spend on fake reviews to have a shot?

The way you are describing it basically makes it sound like a hidden listing cost to be on the app store.

Eventually though people are simply going to stop believing reviews at which point Apple/Google will have to start taking some action against this.

Initial ad spend to get in top rankings of an app store with a game is about 75k. A generally considered successful tactic is to do that spend, get in the top, then grow organically from there if you can.

I played 10 levels of this game on the web site, though, and it never even encouraged me to brag to anyone else about how quick I solved a puzzle, and had no replay value, e.g. I can't solve a puzzle better or worse really. The game has nothing to get each user to draw in more users, so it would be a waste to do the ad spend at all...

That wouldn't work at all. Did you even think about writing this comment?

A crap game doesn't get good reviews, so boosting the app rating by buying fake reviews is just throwing good money after bad.

Ok, maybe "crap" is a bit of exaggeration. The point was that you really wouldn't need to really struggle to make a great game, as people would download it just because they saw good (fake) reviews. As long as it doesn't really suck, there won't be negative reviews to counter this.

Anyway, I wonder how long will it take before this tactic becomes too widespread so that only huge players will have enough cash to game the system like this.

Fair enough, I think the amount of reviews (and buys) influences your position too so just the absence of negative reviews isn't enough.

I don't want to sound cynical, but why do you think it hasn't already spread so wide that only huge players can game the system enough to gain the top spots? There was an article on HN this month about how book publishers even game the NYT book rankings.

i'm guessing because you can't buy the removal of bad reviews.

I don't quite agree with your phrasing, but as an indie iOS dev on the app store since 2010, I sadly have to agree 100% with what you said. It is what it is. Some people might find it easier to swallow if instead of "cheating" you simply called it CPI though.

LOL, give it an acronym and it's a legit business.

I hate to admit it, but VonGuard is right -- without a novel game your best bet is to "cheat" the system - you can hack it in "honest" ways though. It is no different from SEO. That said, even doing so will by no means guarantee you success. Your real best bet is to make a good, novel game. This game is highly polished, but the mechanics were just not interesting enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

If you are "going indie" you have to think about your real motivations -- are you building games to make a profit, or are you building games that you want to play but do not exist? The most successful games seem to fall in the latter category (successful indie games, that is). I do not say this to be snide or critical, just my honest, well-intentioned advice.

> If you are "going indie" you have to think about your real motivations -- are you building games to make a profit, or are you building games that you want to play but do not exist?

This. The latter, indeed, always make the best games. But if yer making this game because you want to make a living making games, push ads, track phone calls, pull down people's address books and sell that shit, after pumping fake downloads and such. If you want the money to fund the game you really want to make, just go full on evil, no half measures. You can be nice on the game you really wanted to make, when gameplay can float it on its own.

I just wanted to say I appreciate your perspective and advice here, we've been spending some time in the office talking about your post and the discussion that has emerged from it.

I also want to echo this sentiment. It's sad how many people here have responded with disgust and have wished bad things upon you. I come to HN to read discussions of a higher level, and instead of proposing level-headed solutions as to how to improve the app-store, you are treated with insults, and that's really sad.

As a developer you are already at the total mercy of these app stores. That doesn't seem to be a problem apparently for many people here because of the belief that the pride of the work should be completely secondary to monetary gain.

The owners of these app stores don't seem to care much either. The more people who make apps regardless of revenue expectations, the more they improve the quality of these app stores and add value to the owners, not the developers. The Apples, and Googles don't have any incentive to make the marketplace any more fair it would seem.

Glad to hear it. Take the advice on cheating with a grain of salt. Some excellent legit strategies have shown up in this thread, too.

Additionally, if you are going to cheat, get that monetization play in order first.

I think this is good advice and an accurate view of how to get ahead (as much as I hate to admit how much of an advantage everyone with deep pockets has). It's definitely hard as a little guy to get started but there are ways to get some attention if you can afford to invest in buying installs.

There's of course Facebook mobile app installs, but a lot of other ways to get installs also that might be more cost effective. Some others: http://www.appoday.com/#developers http://www.curios.me/

Best of luck!

A less sleazy way to do this is to offer players something ("unlock the secret panda level") in return for giving you a five star review. You can't verify that they actually do, but if you give them the item and then send them to the app store, some of them will. Then, set this up as a timed promotion along with a push notification so you can get a bunch of players to hopefully respond at the same day. It's not as effective as buying rank, but it's less sleazy, and it can have some effect.

Another strategy--and I'm not sure about the morality of this, except it's less evil than the above--is to pop up a "please rate!" dialog right after doing something nice for the player.

For example, have a random time-based trigger that will unlock a DLC item in the middle of regular play. Tell them they got it, make it shine and sparkle, and then--maybe not right away, but after a minute or so, after they've gotten back to the game and might be playing around with their new toy--ask them for a rating.

Another way to put it is: if Nintendo, as some unknown up-and-comer, had released SMB3 on the App Store, a ratings dialogue would almost certainly appear approximately two minutes into the Kuribo-shoe level.

I would assume that's against the iOS store TOS, you can ask them for a review but you can't ask for a five star review.

Maybe, but there's plenty of apps that flat out ask for that.

Here's a particularly shameless example: http://imgur.com/8UGRals

But yeah, you'd probably get better results if you're like "hey, here's this free thing, want it?" (tap YES) "Here you go!" ... "Please go rate us thanks it really helps" because of people's sense of reciprocity.

In any case, my point is to use your fans and your customers to boost your rank, rather than shady services and botnets.

Maybe subliminal messaging then? Why would people give anything but a good review if they are already investing time in getting the item?

> Maybe subliminal messaging then?

Ask for a review after the user gets 5 stars in a level? :p

Reading this made me a little sad. My remedy was to immediately go give it an honest 5-star rating and real review. I need to go do this for a lot more apps I love.

Do this. It really means a lot to an app developer. I wish I could send a thank you email to everyone who writes a review for my apps. Even the bad ones. Though I'd rather they email me for support first in case it's something I can help with, at least a bad review points out a problem and I can do something about it and fix it in the next release.

Do you have a source about Hill Climb Racing having spyware? I've seen my friends play it and was unaware of any spyware problems reported with it. Google isn't showing anything using relevant search queries; I'd love to read a source!

Verizon pointed out that Hill Climb eats battery and bandwidth. http://support.verizonwireless.com/information/app_ranking/h...

I expect that's due to sending infinite data back home. Plus it has permissions to read all sortsa data, like every free game.

> Oh, and when it comes to press, I really don't have any good advice. Try to find some small outlets to work with because the big guys will ignore you, and do so in a mean and churlish way.

With nearly 600 upvotes, 250+ comments, and the front page of Hacker News, he shouldn't have trouble finding press coverage.

Unfortunately, it's a clone of a type of game that is commonplace on Flash portals. It doesn't have remarkable features beyond being polished - and what the press and the (word-of-mouth) public needs most to market the game for you is stuff that can be remarked upon. On HN the same rules don't apply because pure execution can be praised instead.

You're vastly overrating the size of the burble that HN sits in. On top of that, while this game is pretty, it's really not that unique.

Doing so well on HN will help massively with press. I'll enjoy writing about this on a decent sized app site tomorrow :-)

I was thinking this! I hope to god they are able to succeed without resorting to the awful things I suggested. It'd be awesome to see this succeed based on the HN community.

thank you, we appreciate any press we can get out of this, i imagine most blogs are buried in spam from the hundreds of apps that are released daily, so I'm not expecting much from the sites we've already emailed


Observing that a lot of corruption is taking place is different from actively suggesting someone to do it. You can do the first, but the second is bad!

You are not a game dev. You don't know our pains. If you are honest, I suggest you reveal the evidence anonymously. I hope all such scums get outed. This is morally bankrupt.

You're suggesting I change my advice to say "Hey guys, people cheat, you shouldn't." Either that, or you're suggesting I should have simply said "Hey guys, this game isn't going to be big, so just make another game."

Gaming app stores isn't morally bankrupt, it's about circumventing an arbitrary set of rules set out by Apple or Google. It's not breaking the law, it's not raping and pillaging. It's capitalism. The other games in the app store that have this gameplay are dialing home, selling ads, etc...

Yes, you can make a good living making awesome games and selling them in the app store. If yer a game dev, you should know that just expecting every game dev to make an awesome game is ludicrous. Gameplay design is about iteration, refinement, testing, and iteration, refinement and testing. Just like software dev. It's really tough to get right, too, because gameplay doesn't "compile" in the same sense as regular logic. You have to test subjective "fun" levels. Making an awesomely fun game with a unique gameplay hook is the hardest possible thing to do in making a game.

So what is an indie dev to do? Monetize the lesser games to fund the big, awesome ones. Is gaming the app store any more scummy than downloading a user's phone book? Tracking their phone call regions? Reading their cookies?

This is why it is morally bankrupt:

See this from a user's perspective-> I spend $200 getting a fancy phone. I go to the app store. I see an app which is highly rated. I believe that the reviews and ratings are real. (The reviews are fake, I don't know that.) I spend $0.99 or more getting it. The app is horrible. This repeats a few times. I eventually stop downloading apps. I have been robbed off my money through lies. This is not just bad marketing. I slowly stop trusting app stores. I don't want to download anything from the open Internet either.

Don't you see how this hurts the whole ecosystem?

Apple's rules are not arbitrary. I could then claim that the laws of a country are arbitrary. I could denounce democracy. I could hire someone to kill my enemies. This is how mafias are formed. App store scamming is nothing but a modern mafia which doesn't kill directly.

You seem to be a person in power. I kindly beg you to use that power for good in a bolder manner. Reveal these scumbags anonymously.

If you equate selling ads with scamming, then someone else can equate scamming with murder. I bet a lot of frustrated devs are in the position.

>See this from a user's perspective

This pattern has repeated time and time again in the history of software. See the videogame industry in 1984, or the Wii, now: crappware hurts the whole ecosystem. I totally agree. Please go browse through the Android App Store and then explain to me how the ecosystem is in anyway un-besmirched now. There will be a flush out. The decision of these guys doesn't make a difference. Get while the getting's good.

>Apple's rules are not arbitrary. I could then claim that the laws of a country are arbitrary.

Yeah, you could. But in this case, we are talking about the rules of a marketplace versus the rule of law. The rules of marketplaces, historically, are gamed over and fucking over again. See any Ponzi scheme/Mortgage crisis/stock swindle. It happens all the time. The rule of law sometimes overlaps with the rules of the marketplace.... I dunno where I'm going with this...

It's just that your statement equivocates the rules of a private, corporate entity with the rules of a democratically elected body of government, checked and balanced with the judicial system. Say what you will about the process of our Republic/democaracy, but I'd say it's anything but arbitrary.

For some reason, when you say arbitrary, I think "spontaneous," and... wow... the federal government as spontaneous. It may be completely non-sensical, but the government tends to move in very premeditated, well explained fashions. OMG, the extent to which they go to explain things.... Jebus.... 10,000 page research studies and... this is another argument.

Point being, Apple's rules change when Apple wants them to. Our laws change when ( and this is another argument waiting to happen) the people decide.

Here's the problem: in the app store graph of revenue, the top 10 apps are on Mount Everest, the next 15 to 25 are at sea level, and the next 75 out to 100 are in the Marianas Trench. Everyone else is somewhere in the molten core of the planet. I was offering blunt advice on how to succeed. The sad fact is, gaming the app stores is a whole line of business. App stores suck. As a game dev, you should know this. Xbox Live Arcade? How's that for patch management? Apple? Holy gods! Why are you so protective of their TOS? I mean, yeah you should abide by all rules of your marketplace. But people don't. And people get rich that way. I sure as fuck don't get rich. On anything. Maybe that's why I am so bitter. Or maybe it's SimCity V's BS...

I am not saying that rules are supreme and should not be violated. I am saying there are morals and whether they conflict with the rules or with your religion is secondary.

I am sort of arguing from a post conventional stage.


Don't think I am arguing from a religious perspective or from a moronic "rules are holy" perspective.

Fuck religion and fuck the rules and laws.

There is a universal moral core which is the only thing I am arguing from.

Sounds like you and I have similar religious (or lack there of) beliefs, if you're arguing from that. Sadly, HN is all about the startup dream: money, and changing the world...

I would say that money is the guiding light of many here, perhaps only out-shined by the dictums of clean, recursive code. I just felt obligated to tell these guys how they could best support themselves with this game, as is, barring another 6 months of reworking it. Having quit his/their jobs and such, I'm sure money is very important.

Making money on games, and making awesome games are kinda two different things. The lines around advertising, Terms of Service, and the general expectations of a free versus paid user, this is all some very shaky ground on which to stand. But when I'm giving advice on a game in this market, I just calls 'em like I sees 'em. It's a terrible reality inside the app stores. Their terms of service change monthly, they can throw you out in the street for a lot less than gaming their systems. It's a marketplace, and these paid install services are growing, just like search engine optimization sites did. It's one of those icky business decisions, and lines that you pay a suit to worry about. Given money from this app, these guys can go and make a great game that can stand on its own merits.

>Oh, and when it comes to press, I really don't have any good advice.

I recommend contacting local newspapers, they are usually very willing to write stories like "local programmer quits day job to pursie his dream of creating games etc".

My up-and-coming online gaming-related publication is seeking great people in the industry with awesome stories and insights to share to write.

Feel free to email me win@insertquarterly.com, would really love to have you write a piece for us!

Why is the most up-voted comment here is one that suggests cheating?

Because the discussion that came from it is really good.


I hope you lose your IGF judge status for this, if you actually are one.

This is a horrible, selfish advise, and you should be ashamed of yourself! It harms both the community and the games.

What's more surprising is that this is a top comment! People who upvoted this are not any better than you are!

It's always better to be honest and take pride in your work. Hacking is about making something great and interesting, not making a cheap buck.

People who didn't upvote it aren't, either

This is sad.

It looks very nice! Here is some initial feedback:

- Even though it's bouncing, I didn't see the "play now" arrow, and went directly for the video button. You might also want a "Play now" button in the main button list.

- In the video, I had to watch quite a bit of it to even know what the game was actually about. I would have liked if you showed me actual gameplay earlier in the video.

Keep it up!

Same sentiments. I didn't get the game till the last 10 seconds - and up till that point, it was rather boring.

But It's a beautiful looking game and when the light bulb went off of how the game is played, I will be downloading it.

Perhaps edit the video so it shows more of the core gameplay (like the part in the last 10s in the video).

Thanks for the feedback, I think accurately portraying game mechanics is a challenge we keep try to solve. Any thought on a way to better convey how the game works?

In the video, use onscreen text, like "connect the squares that have the same colour" (sorry I didn't play your game, but this is what I got from the video that it's about, I'm not sure how the air balloons tie in though).

Question: how essential do you think it was for you to quit your job to create this game? How much longer would it have taken you had you developed it on the side/weekends?

I'm in no way trying to argue your decision, I'm genuinely curious how much work it was to create a game like this. Also, how much of the conceptual work for this game had you done prior to leaving your job?

I would say pretty essential, but that's really because of my personality. I've started and stopped more projects then I can count over the past ten years while holding a steady job. Without saving up money and leaving my job, I'd probably have a half finished game sitting in my projects folder right now.

Thanks! It's a very fun game; it really gets me hooked in terms of difficulty around level 12-14.

Very similar to one of my favorite flash games, 3D logic 2: http://www.kongregate.com/games/alexmatveev/3d-logic-2-stron...

I just wanted to say that. But game still looks nice.

Reminds me very much of Flow Free: iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flow-free/id526641427 Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigduckgam...

Incidentally, it would be nice if you could backtrack to remove colored path blocks if you make a mistake like accidentally dragging across a small corner. I've only tried the webapp version, so not sure if that works in the iOS one.

Pretty great work with all the little touches. How were you able to write both the web version as well as the iOS versions? Did you have two different code bases, or did you use something like Phonegap or trigger.io?

Were you in game dev before you quit to do this?

And would there be a possibility of rotating the cube?

Id like to know this too, do you use some kind of JS wrapper for iOS ?

Nope, Web is all custom, iOS is all native, but the data format for the levels is shared.

Why spend time writing a web version when it's not really going to help with sales?

Actually the time spent writing the web version was small, and it was as a way to prove the idea and (in a limited way) crowdsource level design.

Your website could use a tweak or two. I would change some of the text to reflect the fact that adrift is just a demo online and the iOS version is much longer.

+ the website javascript to load the next level or refresh the current level doesn't work on my computer(aurora firefox on osx)

+ the video doesn't work that well. (volume controls don't work, the play button doesn't work, got the video to play by clicking the video background)

overall it looks like a fun game but I am curious how you are going to make some money with this if it's free.

I loved the demo! The 10th level had me stuck for a few. How many levels does the normal game have? It may be cool to include some text that describes that. Maybe like "Features 100+ levels. Try the first 10 below" or something like that.

Just finished my first play-through through the 10 web levels. Comments: an "erase" functionality might be nice, besides the "reset puzzle". By the end, I figured out a pattern to solving them (identify color with the least path choices, choose one and recursively solve from there) - but then again, I don't like Sudoku either.

Congrats on the release, and best of luck with the game!

Very nice game! I couldn't stop myself from wasting 10 mins playing this.

One minor feedback: when the tile color is yellow, the star should be colored different (because when highlighted, it is also yellow)

I only played a few levels so far, but I really enjoyed it. Excellent concept. I would probably buy it if it was available on Play.

Some feedback from my experience playing the HTML5 version on a computer with a mouse (Firefox 19) and on an android smartphone (Chrome 18):

- On both platforms the "LOADING" message does not go away after hitting "close" on the little instruction cloud, and the level does not load. Only after hitting the reset button (with the circular-arrow symbol) does the level load.

- On my smartphone, my finger tracing can easily outpace the tile coloring, and this leads to some tiles being skipped. The animation is also choppy. Probably not an issue on the native version.

- I think you should prevent diagonal tile markings since they do not work to connect the star tiles anyway.

- If there was a way to stop accidental over-writing other colors due to clumsy mouse usage, that would be nice. This seems like less of a problem on a touch screen.

thanks for feedback, i think we have bugs with asset loading in the playable demo but I haven't been able to easily debug it

I tried the iOS version on a friend's iPad. I had none of the problems I mentioned, and it was really nice on the big screen. I am only about halfway done with the free levels, and hoping there are more special tiles like the rainbow-swirl one. Do the level packs come with more special tile types?

The web version did not work on Metro IE10 on a Surface Pro. It didn't recognize my touches.

Nice game. Please post any monetary results, once you have some data. I thought making serious money from a game in the app store today is very difficult.

How much would you say you knew about your game before you quit your job? By which I mean, had you sort of started on it before leaving?

For the web based version, I might save the last color they clicked on and then use that when they click on a white square because I've found the game a little harder to play with that feature missing on a laptop with a trackpad.

Definitely well-conceived and fun! As others have said, very well done on the web-based version. It's too bad it's not on the Play store, though, any plans for an Android version?

[edit: Asked and answered below. As an Android user (and obviously this is anecdotal but it's all I've got), I spend more money on in-game purchases -- reasonable ones, not FarmCityWhatever insanity -- than I do purchasing them outright. For something like this, level packs seem like a good IAP.]

Well done. I love that you allow users to try out the game on your site first. I wasn't initially inclined to download the app, but after trying the game I was hooked.

Ditto. Was "meh" on yet another free trial, but one easy click "hey why not" and 10 levels later I'm downloading it, and figuring if addictive enough a buck for more levels is cheap.

It's actually really good to know that spending the time to make an online demo was worth the effort.

Very pretty,... it does remind me of Flow Free (http://html5games.com/2012/07/flow-free/ - also on iOS and Android store near you)

1. You've earned my $1 2. Please cater more of my OCD. I see you count number of turn and time... GIVE MY 3 STARSSS!!! 3. Utilise Game Center more,.. "Hey, John finish this level in 2 second with only 3 turns." Since Letterpress I actually have friends in game center.

I've been playing your game for a day, and really enjoyed it. I found it really gave my brain a workout.

That gave me a thought around branding. The name ("Adrift") and the tagline ("A puzzle game in worlds of whimsy") both feel whimsical and fun - which is great for a game. But I wonder if focusing the branding around "brain training" might help expand your target market.

Most games are fun time-wasters, and tend to appeal to people who want to have fun and/or kill time. This game has a considerably wider appeal: it can help people exercise their brains, especially older people who want to keep their minds active. This is why a lot of people do Sudoku and crossword puzzles: http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/24/use-it-or-lose-it-keep...

I had a brain injury a decade or so ago, and the doctors told me to do certain puzzles to keep my brain active. It gave my brain a workout, and I was reminded of that feeling when I played your game.

One way to expand the target market might be to eventually do an expansion set called "Adrift: Brain Island" or something? You could target PR to the demos that brain workouts could appeal to.

Good luck!!

Just FYI, google thinks your dev blog is / has spam:


One a separate note - awesome game! I plan to buy it. On the web version, one thing I'd like would be able to toggle a miss clicked space back to "neutral" with a click. I'd also make the levels slightly harder before getting to level 5 - they all seemed too easy up to that point.

Yeah I can't figure out where thats coming from, I've poured over my site to find it and even resubmitted to google and they don't see that spam when i manually submit. Maybe I should just go with a hosted solution and stop trying to manage wordpress on my own.

[site:craftymind.com viagra]

Try that query on there. They managed to index a LOT of pages that way.

Here's the thing. Your site has been compromised. Look. I'll fetch the same page with two different user-agents. One will show up as some generic curl thing and the other will look like Google's crawler.

    $ curl http://www.craftymind.com/factory/guimark3/video/flash_720p_high.html > ordinary

    $ curl -A "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)" http://www.craftymind.com/factory/guimark3/video/flash_720p_high.html > googlebot
So I look for the term in the first file.

    $ grep viagra ordinary
... Nothing.

I do the same for the second.

    $ grep viagra googlebot
    [ ... tons and tons of garbage ... ]
Your site is running something which only emits garbage when Googlebot (or something resembling it) hits it. Install a user-agent switcher in your browser and you can see it for yourself.


i ended up finding it! it looks like it was one of those backdoor wordpress hacks where they set up commands that are evaled() as base64 strings

You should monetize with paid hints. I've got a similar game in the App Store (I'll be polite and skip linking to it) and as of this morning, 53.8% of my total revenue has come from hint packs.

To see what I mean by hints, see this HTML5 port of my game I've been doing (work in-progress): http://noisytyping.com/NCT6745/index.html

It's a good game, it's a bit short though. I think as a simple game it's pretty easy to solve the puzzles, and while you can make it more complex by introducing a larger grid and additional colors, it will ultimately be the same problem. Adding 20 more levels at the same level of complexity would make the game seem trivial after a while.

It might benefit from additional types of tiles that introduce complexity, maybe like a tile that reacts to the color placed next to it and becomes colored the same way. Maybe a tile that reacts to all the colors next to it and becomes a mix. (IE: You need a purple tile in one spot, so in order to have that tile or tile group to turn purple, you need red and blue squares next to it). Sparse use of elements like that keep the problem from being identical.

Then again, maybe it's not needed. People enjoy working through books of sudoku problems.

I really like the look of this. Any plans for an Android version?

absolutely, its probably our highest priority for the next month or so, we focused on just iOS for release since we have a small team.

Please post an update to HN when you release the Android version.

FYI, there is a less-polished clone on the Android store called "Flow Cube".

Nice work. The playable website is fantastic.

FWIW, I would have paid $0.99 up front. I bought the level pack, but it's pretty rare that a game will hook me to the point that I make it through the free levels. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't seen this post - if I'd just stumbled across the game somewhere.

The game is definitely polished and nice.

How do you intend (or do you intend) to ramp up revenue to match your previous salary?

All you guys leaving advice and comments in this thread... download the app. It's much more polished than the website version.

I rated it 5 stars, added a review, and referred it to a couple friends. I want to see this game succeed. If you want to support these guys, why not do the same?

In my opinion, the app is not deserving of 5 stars. The mechanics are grating and difficult to use. I spent 3 minutes trying to draw a path on level 10, and every time after rounding the corner a that I did not intend to change would change. After a while, I gave up and deleted the app. It looks nice, but there are more fundamental flaws in the gameplay.

Very neat how this game is presented. But I played this game years ago. Back when it was still called '3D Logic' http://www.i-am-bored.com/bored_link.cfm?link_id=17727

This is a really awesome game! Great work!

Just one thing, the web version seems kinda blurry. Even on a non-retina 5+ year old LCD.

Just checked and it's even blurrier on a retina ... the website itself is super crisp, but the textures in the game area itself kind of aren't.

What is your monetization strategy if you have one? Ads? Free now but paid in the future?

Seems there's an in-app purchase, $0.99 for additional levels.

ETA: Thanks for no ads. Easy-priced paid content is worth not cluttering my head with more noise.

For now the strategy is to avoid ads on iOS and sell in-game level packs, however I'm not sure how well that model works on android, I'd love to know if anyone has thoughts on that, it seems most people just do ad driven games on android

There are so many free things on Android that it's hard to get myself to try paid for games. The exception is games that I get to know through some other source, like your excellent web page with live demo.

I'd pay for this game on android, but paid level pack would also work for me.

Small tangent, but what is the state of the Lodsys in-app patent? Are mobile devs protected at this point? I also read somewhere that the patent was suppose to expire soon.

I went with two apps and a Lite version. It's a bit of a hassle.

You forgot about "colorblind users"! Best and easiest way to make the game accessible for people with color vision deficiencies would be to also use a unique symbol for each color and a variation of the same for the connecting tiles.

Very nice presentation!

I understand you all, but even getting review these days dont give you so much traction... For example, we are a small Indie (3 People) and release our game for IOS...you probably didnt hear of the game unless you are in the cocos2d community...

The game is FREE and it went live on the 15th of February 2013, till today we got more than 150 reviews with an average of 4.3 and we still dont see us in the rankings..

sorry, i forgot to mention the game :)

Game name is Atlantis Breaker HD link is : https://itunes.apple.com/app/atlantis-breaker-hd/id576385319...

by the way any suggestion and feedback would be highly appreciated.


I'm impressed with your take on the level list. It's so nice to see something more than a grid of colored, numbered boxes. It may be a simple puzzle game, but approaches like that make it feel like an adventure.

The game is beautiful, too. Wonderful job!

If you are looking to increase distribution you may want to consider reducing the title of the game and moving the buttons around so that the game is well above the fold. You can then approach different game portals to host the game iframed in, but with the way it is now you won't have much luck.

Take a look at Cut the Rope web version, they have built a pretty sweet web version.

If you change up your webversion to be better suited to being iframed in let me know (or contact us at Kano Games) and we can iframe it for web and link to you iOS version for our mobile users.


Soundtrack for the game, for your consideration and enjoyment: https://soundcloud.com/tackmobile/sets/adrift-soundtrack

That's a great puzzle game. It's even more impressive as you guys made it in 6 months. I am always amazed, humbled and energized with posts and projects such as this one. Keep up the good work!

Yea, great job on the game!! I was past level 7 before I had to pull my self away.

The game is A LOT of fun ;) I definitely see myself and people I know playing it. Best of luck in the app-store. No doubt you all will do GREAT!!!

Not to detract from the fun of the game, but I get a strong feeling that this is probably a very studied problem in topology - and that thought keeps on nagging me to write a solver script :)

Yes in fact I've spent the past 6 months thinking about whether i could build a level generator that can verify and solve the levels too. The way I see it, with a simple 5x5x5 cube with 5 colors on it, the number of possible combinations to check is 75^5, which might take awhile to brute force, so there needs to be a intelligent way to map lines.

This is an ideal problem for constraint solving. If there is one thing constraint solving does well it is make NP-Hard problems more manageable. I wrote up a quick solution to the first puzzle in sabr (1), you can see what the puzzle result looks like here (2). The key insight is: "each color must be surrounded by exactly two of its color, unless it is on an end, in which case it is surrounded by exactly one" after that it's just a matter of coding it up. It's not much extra work to go from here to a generator, which I may make later if I have time. Cool puzzle game, I like it ;D.

1) https://github.com/dbunker/SABR/blob/master/module/other-tes...

2) https://github.com/dbunker/SABR/blob/master/module/other-tes...

The general case might be something like that, but you only need any given configuration that fits those parameters (that is, you're not trying to solve complete, abstract topological problems). Maybe if you arbitrarily fix the first path, thereby artificially reducing the solution space? Just thinking out loud. Very cool puzzle!

EDIT: or even take a lower-level solution and inject another path into. So every prior level is a seed to future levels. Rotation of the three faces, even cycling the colors, would probably make it hard to recognize the older level within the new one (at least, for casual use).

My thoughts: what if you select the initial 5 colors, then recursively "extend" one of the colors in one of three possible directions. The sum of results is your level-space. Store results in a DB. Then, select all levels that have a)cell coverage of 85%+ b)min path length of 5 on all paths.

In order to cut down some of the search, you can make the recursion smarter (e.g. extend one color at a time, early cycle / impossibility prediction, etc)

I think solving any of these can be reduced to a max-flow problem, and thus it is efficiently solvable.

Many of the levels have been designed so that if you follow the path of least resistance to solve them, you will always be left with one line that wont connect. Thats the true puzzle part of the game, and that's the aspect that makes me think it's difficult to solve without resorting to brute force.

I think you are right, it's harder than I thought.

The problem can in fact be modeled with a graph in which you need to find vertex-disjoint paths between pairs of vertices (s1,t1), (s2,t2), and so on, but this problem seems not to be reducible to max-flow, instead it is NP-hard.

Haha, yes, that's what I thought too.

But that's what makes it fun. It's the perfect combination of familiarity & challenge!

Fun game! I'm colorblind, though, and on level 10 the orange and green look very similar to my eyes. The ability to adjust colors, hues, or even just the "star" icons would be a huge help.

Cool game. I remember flipping through old puzzle books as a kid and playing these types of puzzles.

One small thing that annoyed me was that even if i connected a path to complete a puzzle, if my finger slipped and removed another path, i would still have to go back and correct it before the puzzle is completed. I think that the puzzle should complete as soon as the final path is connected; the validation shouldn't occur after my finger is lifted from the last move.

Anyway, great look and feel and overall design. Best of luck!

Wow - that version on your website was brilliant. I was hooked by the second puzzle; and would have happily paid for this app. You must have spent a lot of time making a web version, but I can only imagine how well that is going to pay off; I probably never would have downloaded this game otherwise (I don't download games, basically, ever). But with it, you sold me very quickly, and definitely left money on the table...

edit: I would also love a shake gesture to clear the cube.

Well done. The game is strangely intuitive. I skipped the trailer and just played. It almost felt like I knew what to do just by looking at the cube.

That's a huge win IMO.

Flow Free: Bridges, with nicer graphics and a better soundtrack. I like it. Controls could be a bit smoother, but nice game overall. Great start.

This is great fun. However, I installed it on iOS and found what looks like a bug:


I suggest you try Gamezebo (http://www.gamezebo.com/) - they review many casual games.

Please make a paid version.

I have the in-app purchases disabled in the Settings, so upgrading an app like yours requires doing an app switch, then typing in Restrictions password, enabling IAP, switching back to the app (frequently needing to restart it to), making a purchase (including typing a password), then going back to Settings and re-disabling IAP. In other words it's a hassle.

I played the SAME game before as a flash game. Even the first 5 or 6 levels are the same... Hope, that you don't get sued for that!

This is based on Nikoli's number game called Arukone or Numberlink: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numberlink

Here are many more for you to enjoy: http://www.janko.at/Raetsel/Arukone/index.htm

I've played this game before (well, not this one, but the same game by a different company). Very enjoyable and your UI looks better than the other. The question I have is: how does one go about creating a puzzle game? I've always wondered. It seems like a lot of work to make something that's difficult-but-solvable.

Maybe http://www.kongregate.com/games/alexmatveev/3d-logic . I had the same feeling, it's annoyingly hard to find the original version, there are a lot of reskins and other very similar games.

Yeah, its a clone of an old shockwave game I played about 10 years ago and felt it would be perfect for touch interaction. For this puzzle game specifically, I found that starting with the solution and working my backwards was actually the best way to build levels. I'm not sure if that holds true for other puzzle games.

Interesting. I kept wanting to rotate the cube in your game. Nice to see it in the 3d-logic game the other commenter mentions. Do you plan to add that?

Playing this triggered a familiar sensation, and I realized that this game has strong similarities with Slitherlink, an addictive puzzle developed by Nikoli, the Japanese publisher who popularized sudoku. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slitherlink

I would be interested in following up on this and seeing whether this makes you enough money to sustain your company.

Great job! Congrats on a slick product. I noticed you had a link to listen to the soundtrack. Cute music, did you guys make the music too?

I'm glad people are getting onboard with HTML5 for apps and games. You should get a blog going, I'd love to hear about your trials and tribulations over the 6 months since you quit your job.

Yup, we made the music too. YOu can hear the soundtrack here: https://soundcloud.com/tackmobile/sets/adrift-soundtrack

Very neat, looks much better than Flow. Congrats. You should charge at least $0.99 for it, no need to be free.

Great game! Played to level 5 on your site, heading to download it onto iPhone now, for more playage later.

Without having looked yet, what is your revenue model, if there is one? Is the plan to release this for free, build an audience, a name, get feedback and all that - to go bigger later with a new game?

Looks very nice and polished. I downloaded your app and played it for a bit. I would have paid for it after being able to play the web version and knowing what the app was about. An IAP upgrade would be cool if you decide to put ads on it. I would upgrade in a heartbeat.

Love it! I would love to see social integration as well. For example 1 on 1 matches - first one to fail a level looses. And maybe even co-ops, this requires advanced levels though. You have n-sized teams, e.g. n on n matches - the first team to fail a level looses.

It's simple and elegant. I might have to grab it on my iPhone. And as others have said, it's a great idea to offer it online to give prospective users a taste of the game. Now I can see if it's challenging enough to be worth my time :P

I'm not able to respond to every individual, but I want to say that we've been reading every single comment here and GREATLY appreciate the feedback, you guys have given us a lot think about in terms of trying to make this successful.

Great game and well made. I am sure you guys know the little quirks with the product ( like dragging sometimes includes blocks which I dont wanna include ) but on the whole very impressive. Good way to get the brain juices flowing :)

Minor issue: if you accidentally cross the paths of the colors, it fails silently. There's no "you fail" message or anything like that given, and it's not immediately obvious that the only way to try again is to reload the level.

you just draw over the tiles with the correct color. I guess that wasn't obvious though I figured it out. You can make as many mistakes as you want. I guess a tutorial would solve that but there is no fail. Just win or give up.

I didn't have this issue on chrome, you can just start dragging again and reconnect the paths.

Well, I enjoyed this game. I suppose I can see how this gets tougher and tougher as it goes on. I'd buy it, after the trial. Good luck. Game dev is a precarious and chancy marketing biz as all these HN experts are telling you!

as associate producer on 65 iOS games w/ $12M in revenue to date...

you guys made a nice game, but it's very fringe, and it's not even super striking like swords and sworcery, which, btw, was not a big financial success.

i learned the hard way by working on ~20 super fringe games that failed hard (less than $5k total revenue) during the early days of the app store. these are the games where the artists went wild and really had themselves a time and were super pleased with themselves... not a formula for success.

your art is fringe, your gameplay is fringe.

try finding something else not so fringe that you guys STILL love, and make another game, and then another...

Lots of fun! Great looking and all that, too! Except the strategy gets a little stale after the second level when you realize that at least one of the colors always has to take a really roundabout way to get to its partner.

Holy shit, that's addictive.

Excellent choice allowing me to play the game right on your website. Now I'm going to download (and buy, does it cost money?) your game. If I couldn't play it immediately, I probably wouldn't have.

Reminds me of one of my favorite puzzle games of all time, Trainyard. http://www.trainyard.ca/ But Adrift is definitely different. Love it!

Fantastic, reminds me of one of my favorite mobile games - FreeFlow.

I'd rather if my move didn't get set until I stop holding down the cursor (may be different on the mobile version, don't have an iPhone).

Awesome little game. How do you plan on making money, if I may ask? I really like the design language, very "flat" and modern looking. I'd like to see more games taking this approach.

Nice work! Very polished, good puzzles. The whooshing sound when going through the menu items in the main menu was a little annoying, but otherwise there wasn't a bit I didn't like.

Great work! I finished all 10 levels on the website--I'm assuming more are available with the app, but it's not completely clear.

I linked my wife to it and she got a kick out of it, too.

Great game! I'd definitely buy it. Too bad it's not already on the mac app store, I was ready to pull the trigger. Maybe it can be a part of the next Humble Bundle.

Posts like these are a great inspiration. I hope to see an update post with information regarding to how well it/you are doing. Also, the web based demo is sweet.

This game is a complete ripoff of 3-D Logic...


With a web demo, I'd just charge for the game if I were you.

Interesting game. I downloaded it and will rate. Good luck!

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